American Airlines announced today (well, yesterday for me because I happen to be in Japan at the moment) some more Super Happy Fun changes to their AAdvantage program.  It’s not just that they’re bad, but American executives continue to lie to investors and consumers by using words like “innovation” or “innovative” or “good” when describing these changes.  They are literally copying and pasting what Delta and United have done.  That is not innovation, that is laziness.

Now, bearing in mind that I’m jetlagged and mainlining coffee until the breakfast buffet opens, let’s take a look at all of this innovation.

Innovation #1 – Using the same revenue-based mileage earning scheme as Delta and United

Beginning August 1, 2016, the amount of redeemable “miles” you earn for a trip will be based entirely on the airfare of the ticket, not on the distance flown.  Why American continues to call them “miles” I do not know but I imagine the FTC will want to take a look.  Oh don’t worry though, there are multipliers based on your status level (chart courtesy of American Airlines, who sent this out in their email today):

Elite status level Miles earned per USD spent
AAdvantage® member 5
AAdvantage® Gold 7 (40% bonus)
AAdvantage® Platinum 8 (60% bonus)
AAdvantage® Executive Platinum 11 (120% bonus)

Now let’s have some quick Q&A:

Q: Ok, so if I pay a total of $300 for a ticket and I’m Executive Platinum I would earn 3300 miles, right?

Lol (that’s American laughing at you, not me) no.  There are a lot of government fees hidden in that $300, so only the portion that American charges you (not including fees like checked baggage fees) are part of this equation, so likely you’d be at somewhere around $260 before taxes, meaning you’d get approximately 1/8 of a mile for that trip.

 

Q: What if I buy a ticket in First Class, do I get a bonus?

You could buy a ticket in the cockpit and it wouldn’t make one bit of difference, it is all based on the cost of the ticket.  How dare you ask for more miles just because you paid extra for a First Class seat!  Basically American has cast their lot with the most fickle travelers in the world: full-fare premium cabin business travelers, which wouldn’t be so bad if their on-time statistics were not literally the worst in the industry at the moment (businesspeople don’t like being late).

 

Q: What if I booked travel last week for a trip after August 1?

Womp womp, you purchased your tickets when American advertised one set of benefits on its website, what makes you possibly think that American would be expected to honor what was promised?  Ah, yes, consumer protection laws.  Unfortunately when you booked the trip does not matter, American has decided that as of August 1 you as a traveler do not matter, only your money.  Regardless of when you booked, all travel beginning August 1 will accrue redeemable miles based on Delta’s United’s American’s “innovative” new earning chart.

Innovation #2 – Adding a fourth status level, matching Delta and United’s programs

We all saw this coming, US Airways had four status levels and American had only three.  The execution of it, however, is absolutely laughable.  American will now how four status levels: Gold, Platinum, and Executive Platinum, but now there’s another tier between Platinum and Executive Platinum called…wait for it…Platinum Pro.

Platinum Pro.

Are you serious?  That sounds like a discount membership you would buy from a car wash, not something offered by the world’s largest airline.

Here are the new status levels and requirements, from AA.com:

Elite status qualification

Qualification Executive Platinum / oneworld®EmeraldSM Platinum Pro / oneworld®SapphireSM Platinum / oneworld®SapphireSM Gold / oneworld®RubySM
EQMs 100,000 75,000 50,000 25,000
EQSs 120 90 60 30
EQDs $12,000 $9,000 $6,000 $3,000

What are the benefits of this new Platinum Pro level, aside from the special tri-color automotive soap?  A big ol’ bucket of WAIT WTH WHAT ARE THOSE EQDs?!

That’s right folks…

Innovation #3 – Minimum required spending for status levels, just like Delta and United

I’m getting tired of getting so innovated!  American simply does not care how much you fly with them anymore, they only care how much money they can take out of your grubby selfish little hands, especially if you’re a loyal flyer.  Much like our fun little Q&A above on the revenue-based redeemable miles earning scheme, only the AA portion of the fare will count towards the Elite Qualifying Dollar requirement, making the total dollar amount much more over the course of a year.

United and Delta have co-branded credit cards that waive the minimum spending requirement with a certain amount of spending.  American has yet to announce a similar program but that’s most likely because they are renegotiating their co-branded credit card relationships at the moment.  As soon as they announce a single credit card partner I imagine you’ll be able to spend like $25000 on that card and get rid of the EQD requirement.  Why am I so certain?  Because that’s what Delta and United do.

Was there anything good announced?

Yes.  If you are an Executive Platinum or ConciergeKey member you can now get complimentary upgrades on award tickets in domestic markets.  Also, if you spend a ton of money with American you’ll be happy: upgrade priority is now based on your status level followed by the amount of EQDs you’ve earned over the last 12 months.

So really who benefits from all this “innovation”?

The most fickle customers in the world: full-fare premium cabin business travelers.  The new mantra seems to be: American wants your money, not your loyalty.

Is the management of American completely insane?

Yes.  American does not have a competitive hard or soft product right now.  They are depending on jet fuel prices staying low to mask how miserly this looks.  American’s RASM (revenue per available seat mile, one of the big metrics in the industry) is not good right now, nor is their on-time rating.  What better time to piss off a good majority of their loyal flyers, who American came to, hat-in-hand, asking them to stay loyal through a bankruptcy that resulted in a merger that no one wanted?  Is now really the time that American wants to compete on a level playing field when it still trots out A320s from US Airways that don’t even have power ports and 20 year old 777s which have a wide selection of 3 movies to watch on a loop?

I guess it boils down to this…

If I look back honestly at the past 7 years that I’ve been an AAdvantage member, I have to honestly say that I’ve been loyal to AAdvantage, not American Airlines.  I’ve had a few good experiences with American but have had many more poor experiences, which is sad.  I was always willing to put up with it because the AAdvantage program was so good, but that’s gone now.  The AAdvantage program is now no different than Delta or United, and in many cases it is now worse.

So let’s take a look at the past year.  American has bludgeoned their award chart and made many awards more expensive, they’ve made earning redeemable miles for those more expensive awards harder to come by, they have made earning status more expensive, and they’ve reduced the benefit of having status like Executive Platinum by awarding only 4 systemwide upgrades and capping the max you can earn at 8.  At literally every turn they have cut benefits and offered only token gestures in response (hooray. upgrades on domestic award flights).

Congratulations American, you have succeeded.  I am no longer loyal to AAdvantage and will just fade back into the general population of “travelers” where I guess you’re saying I belong.  Someday soon, when you declare bankruptcy again, because you will, don’t bother reaching out and asking for my loyalty again, I see exactly where that got me now.

BoardingArea

 

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